A high level investigation found six officers guilty for the crash of a helicopter which killed a civilian and six military personnel.
On Friday, Indian Air Chief Marshal Mr. Rakesh K Singh Bhadauria admitted that Indian Air Force (known as IAF) admitted that Mi-17 helicopter which crashed in J&K’s Budgam on the 27th of February was hit by an Indian missile. The missile was launched from the ground when India and Pakistan air force were engaged in a fierce airfight.
The CoI (Court of Inquiry) has completed its investigation and Bhadauria who became the chief marshal on Monday stated that the helicopter was indeed hit by IAFs own missile on Air Force Day on 8th of October. Bhadauria added ‘It has been established that the helicopter was hit by our own missile. We have already taken administrative action. Disciplinary action is being taken against two officers. We admit that it was a big mistake and necessary steps have been taken so that such incident does not recur’.
An administrative action has been taken against 4 officers that were held responsible by the CoI, Additionally, court martial procedures have begun on 2 senior officers. The investigation found ‘vital gaps’ between coordination and communication among the crew on board and the ground staff which were in clear violation of standard operating procedures.
The helicopter took off from Srinagar airport around 10:00 am, soon after discovering Pakistani Air Force jets in Indian airspace on 27th February, the crew on board had Squadron Leader Siddharth Vashisht who was flying the chopper along with Squadron Leader Ninad Mandvgane, Kumar Pandey, Sergeant Vikrant Sehrawat, Coporals Pankaj kumaj and Deepak Pandey.
Previously, sources from military said that the investigation established that the IFF (Identification of Friend or Foe) system on board the chopper were off along with ‘vital gaps’ in coordination and communication among the flight crew and ground staff. The IFF assists defence radars to distinguish between whether the object flying in the airspace is hostile or friendly.
The incident took place on the 27th of February and helicopter crashed within 10 minutes of its take off when Indian and our neighbour’s fighter-jets were involved in a fierce combat in Nowshera. On the 26th of February, IAF had successfully completed its air strike mission on one of Jaish e Mohammed training camp in Balakot, Pakistan.
Military officials commented that the helicopter was ordered to return as the catfight was just 100 kilometres away from Srinagar, but the missile was already fired by the IAF’s field staff thinking it was an enemy helicopter. The reason behind this assumption was Pakistan’s attempt to enter via Uri sector in North Kashmir at the same time when IAF’s fighter jets were fighting in Nowshera, ground staff thought that the helicopter was Pakistan’s and the missile from air defence system had been fired by then. Earlier in May, the IAF had transferred the AOC (Air Officer Commanding) of Srinagar base to assure an unbiased and comprehensive investigation of the incident. Major General Asif Ghafoor, a spokesperson of Pakistan’s Armed Forces said made a statement ‘There are reports of crash of an Indian aircraft on the Indian side, we had no engagement with that aircraft’